By Sam Pynes
Young Frankenstein, Nebraska Communities Playhouse, Thursday September 14, 2023, Final Dress Rehearsal
Watching this show brought back a distinct memory of a family summer cabin trip as a kid. A bunch of siblings and cousins had spent the day on the lake, and most were now bundled into sleeping bags scattered about the living room of the rental cabin. My older cousins weren’t ready for bed so they stayed up to watch what I thought was an old movie. It was in black and white anyway. Even as a little kid I quickly realized that even though this movie was scary and thrilling and atmospheric it was also funny in a macabre and irreverent way, so I was sure it would be against the rules for the little kid that I was at the time. I kept watching surreptitiously from under the dining room chair where I’d rolled out my sleeping bag until I fell asleep, sometime right after “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” I remember distinctly the melodramatic violin and the deadhand gag, one of the very few jokes not immaculately replicated in the stage musical.
Most of the sex humor went over my head at the time, but even under the bawdiest bits of humor is hidden clever social commentary in this update of the classic novel. The allure of power, the need to belong, and the dangers of mob mentality are all themes softened by schtick, innuendo, horror, and dry wit.
The music for this stage musical adaptation is very Mel Brooks, both celebrating and lampooning classic Hollywood and Broadway and adding some levity into a show which was delightfully terrifying in parts. Tight and confident harmonies and dance from the talented ensemble kept the show moving and energetic.
It was so funny, but the absolute highlight for me was the reanimating of the monster. The staging and effects would have been at home in a movie as Igor threw heavy electrical switches and the background animations showed pulsating electricity as Dr. Frankenstein cackled with glee. The effects and set were impressively seamless and created a very filmic atmosphere that was thrilling without being distracting or overstimulating. I found myself wondering which of the sound effects were actually happening on stage because they were so well timed, and the film effects added detail to even little moments, created by director JD Madsen.
The trio/quartet of Joe Hanson (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein), Christian Cardona (Igor), Chloe Scharting (Inga), and Wade Mumford (The Monster) had incredibly tight chemistry and energy.
Joe Hanson channels the manic sardonicisms of Gene Wilder, down to his frizzy mop of hair while still making each quip and outburst his own. Cardona delivers each joke with clear and precise timing. My favorite moment was the silence following the brain mishap. I loved how quickly the two of them launch into “Together Again” as they meet.
Wade Mumford is absolutely perfect as The Monster and at times was careening alarmingly among the delighted audience. I left thinking that the shadow effect during the monster’s routine in the Second Act was recorded, but later found out that it was performed live by Matt Osmotherly, one of many outstanding ensemble performers in this show that you are sure to recognise from other recent productions!
Colleen Bade (Frau Blucher) and Marikita Saure (Elizabeth Benning) get fun over-the-top belting numbers. Paul Durban is the lonely blind man who haplessly injures his new friend, and Nathan Kruetzer’s stiff arm and leg as Inspector Kemp provide consistent physical comedy as he incites the townspeople against the new heir to Castle Frankenstein. Tim Anderson plays a suitably suave and creepy ghost of the legendary Dr. Victor Frankenstein for the fun sequence of “Join the Family Business.”
If you are a fan of the film, comedy, musicals, or halloween-themed excursions you won’t want to miss this truly impressive show at NCP. The level of love and detail that went into this production is apparent at every moment they bring to life!
If you go: Young Frankenstein runs Sept. 15-24, Fri-Sat 7:30PM, Sun 2PM. Ticket information at https://neplayhouse.com/ ($16-$22). The show runs about 2.5 hours with one intermission. Concessions and signature cocktails for purchase!
Sam Pynes is an actor, writer, and story enthusiast. Mostly harmless. Current Managing Editor of Appearing Locally.
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